by Simplicius The Thinker
Last time we left off, there was talk of the large AFU counter-offensive to unblock Bakhmut which was set to kick off wednesday or thursday of this week. Clearly it hasn’t come. There is now word that General Syrsky, the commander of AFU ground forces, has stated that the weather conditions are inclement. Rains are turning everything to mud and slush, and there are now whispers, including from Prigozhin himself, that the big counter-offensive has in fact been delayed to at least mid-April.
With that said, there’s still a lot to cover on that topic:
Thus, according to the PMC Wagner, in the area of Bakhmut, Konstantinovka, Slavyansk, Kramatorsk and Druzhkovka, up to 80,000 AFU personnel, about 280 tanks, over 1,000 armored vehicles, up to 300 pieces of barrel artillery, as well as 93 MLRS are concentrated. With this grouping, the Ukrainian command will try to knock out the assault forces of the PMCs from Bakhmut, and develop an offensive towards Donetsk.
In addition, the Wagner headquarters expressed its vision of the situation on the development of events in other areas. He noted the formation of a shock fist in the area of Dnepropetrovsk, as well as hotbeds of tension in the area of Kherson and Lyman.
Prigozhin then went on to say that: “Ukrainian troops have prepared about 200 000 reserve personnel,and also received a large amount of NATO equipment, Prigozhin said. According to him, Ukraine has concentrated a group of more than 80 000 soldiers around Bakhmut.”
By any accounts, Prigozhin’s estimate seem high, and he is certainly a man disposed towards exaggeration—for instance he said that 100,000 AFU troops have died just to Wagner alone. Keep in mind Wagner’s large-scale participation has chiefly been in the Popasna, Soledar, and Bakhmut battles. And while perhaps it is possible, it is also very likely an exaggeration to say 100k AFU died to Wagner alone in just these battles (and Prigozhin made certain to emphasize this figure was dead only, not counting wounded).
So, what are we to think about his claim of 200k AFU reserves with 300 tanks and 1000 armored vehicles? It’s unclear if he’s referring to Bakhmut specifically in this regard, and my suspicion is he’s not. Because the 200k reserves number fits much more closely the number we’ve been getting about AFU’s total reserves being prepared in the rear—this is for all coming offensives, including the big Crimean one (though the number typically bandied about is much lower, about 100-120k).
Given the fact that he also gives 80k as the number of AFU currently around Bakhmut, the 200k could be a reference to the total combination of Bakhmut numbers plus reserves currently being developed.
The problem with delaying a Bakhmut assault to April is that this means likely pushing back the grand southern counter-offensive to an even later date. Some on the AFU side have even stated that mid-July is the most ideal time, weather/ground conditions-wise, to launch the main southern attack.
The question is, can Bakhmut even hold out until mid-April? For now, it looks like it might, considering that Wagner forces have lost a little steam there this week, given that the AFU has poured in some of the reserves meant for the ‘counter-offensive’ to shore up defenses. Here are a few interesting maps:
These are two heats map, showing where the likely fighting is taking place based on satellite heat reception.
This is a map showing percentages of areas held, with the claim that Wagner holds nearly 64% of Bakhmut, Ukraine 17%, and 20% is ‘neutral’ gray-zone or no man’s land through which the shooting is taking place, but where neither side is stationing active troops or positions. Though another map has it like so, giving the neutral areas to Ukraine:
Also, via a video of a firefight, Russian positions were geolocated to this series of buildings circled in red:
Which means that the area boxed in blue is likely now taken, and so at the least a modest advance of several blocks/neighborhoods has occurred towards the center.
On a related note, we should mention that the AFU is good at sweeping its own failures under the rug. Some might recall that we were promised a ‘grand Winter offensive’ on Svatovo-Kremennaya region for the past few months. And what has it amounted to? The AFU not only has had massive losses there, failed to get close to either city—but has also been driven back where Russia now makes daily gains going the other way (west). Now they pretend like there was never a huge PR campaign for the mighty, unstoppable Kremennaya offensive that collapsed.
Here’s a video taken from a captured AFU soldier’s phone, showing their battalion complaining that only 20 out of 475 from their battalion have survived in the Kremennaya area: VIDEO 1.
As for the ‘grand southern offensive’ to take place later, here is another interesting post from a top Telegram channel:
As mentioned in previous reports, many people are anticipating a mass drone attack to start off such an offensive. The AFU has been busy creating large company-level teams of FPV operators with each brigade.
According to a Russian source, Taiwan gave Ukraine almost a thousand unmanned aerial vehicles that have a swarm function and are able to automatically interact with each other.
Ukrainian forces want to use them in a counter-offensive against Crimea to create an effect of surprise and panic among the enemy.
But Russia has not sat idle, either. There are several new very promising reports that Russian authorities have been taking the drone warfare very seriously of late.
Firstly, there’ve been reports of a new mysterious Russian microwave weapon taking out Ukrainian drones several kilometers away, and AFU are strongly complaining about it. Some believe it is the Ranets-E system, presented long ago at Russian military trade-shows, but has gone ‘off-grid’ since then.
“They seem to be burning down”: reports began to appear in the Ukrainian segment of the network about UAVs shot down at a distance of 6-7 kilometers
According to the authors, the Russian Armed Forces can use Ranets-E combat complexes of electromagnetic radiation during a special military operation.
“Ranets-E” is a powerful microwave generator on wheels designed for non-contact destruction of enemy aircraft. The installation station is able to detect enemy equipment using the “friend or foe” system, aim and automatically guide the target, constantly “frying” its electronic insides with powerful microwave radiation.
The Economist even highlighted the ‘black magic’ of Russia’s recent capabilities in this regard in a recent article days ago:
In Ukraine, they called “black magic” how the Russian Armed Forces manage to shoot down drones, writes the Economist, citing Ukrainian sources in the field of defense.
“The Russians … are doing black magic in electromagnetic defense. They can jam signals, affect GPS, send drones to the wrong height, just to make them fall from the sky,” a Ukrainian source quoted the publication as saying. According to the source, the Ukrainian troops will receive “significant and high-tech capacities” in the coming months. However, according to him, it will still not be easy for them to fight the Russian Federation.
And Russia has created a Defense Innovation Support Center at the level of the State Duma to help facilitate new technologies to Russian troops. This is partly in response to all the complaints about how inefficient and bureaucratic the Russian military system has been in the first year of the SMO in terms of allowing Russian troops to procure the latest needed items like drones etc.
There has been much talk about how civilian crowd-funded efforts had to get drones to Russian troops because the byzantine bureaucratic process of the Russian military simply held everything up and didn’t allow for the timely ‘authorizations’ and various red-tape / paperwork to smoothly conduct these procurements.
So, slowly, things are changing and these are very promising signs:
Waiting for the enemy to attack: the Defense Innovation Support Center was created at the State Duma to help the troops with new technologies with the participation of RVvoenkor
The need for it has been brewing for a long time, the need to promote new developments to the troops has been discussed for many months at different levels in our society.
The initiative of the public was actively supported and is helping to implement it, deputy Dmitry Kuznetsov , who constantly helps the front:
“Given the expectation of a counteroffensive by the Armed Forces of Ukraine, there is very little time. At the site of the State Duma, we have created a public Defense Innovation Support Center. It is important to have time to provide our guys with anti-drone protection and everything that saves lives. And one cannot do without activists and private initiative. Civil society in Russia is forced to conduct a Social Military Operation, and war, as always in history, stimulates technological progress.
We were supported by our colleague Gusev, a representative of the Ministry of Defense Sergey Egorov, from the Sergei Mikheev Foundation Anton Samarin, the Union of the Fathers of Russia and A. Zaremba, the GOZ Platform and D. Tarasov, Russian Spring and Artyom Potapov, general directors of manufacturing enterprises.
This comes on the heels of Dmitry Medvedev’s leading charge of visiting more Russian MIC plants, holding new meetings with arms developers/suppliers, such as this curious one where he invoked a famously threatening Stalin speech from WW2: Video 1 (Alternate Link)
It’s up to you to decide whether this was a serious speech or slightly tongue in cheek.
Also it should be said that Medvedev announced that Russia is now building 1,500 tanks per year. I’ve covered this in depth before, and to summarize: Russia was building upwards of 200-250 brand new tanks per year, and modernizing/refurbishing/upgrading an additional 600-650+. But last year Shoigu ordered Uralvagonzavod to double their production of just new tanks alone, and two new Russian factories for modernizations (such as turning T-72’s into T-72B3M’s, T-90A’s into T-90M’s, etc.) were planned to be established, which would greatly expand refurb/upgrades per year.
There have not been any hard figures to confirm how close they’re hitting to that mark this year, yet. But Medvedev’s new statement appears to be the first such indication. It would mean that Russia would theoretically be producing upwards of 400-500 brand new tanks this year and upgrading/refurbing an additional 1000, most likely.
You can see his statement for yourself at roughly the 2:00 minute mark of this video (alternate link).
Recall that even at the worst most improbably inflated loss estimates (i.e. those of the infamous Oryx list), Russian-Allied forces combined have lost 1600+ tanks total in the SMO. This would be further confirmation that Russia has more than made up any losses or will soon, as they likely have produced 800-1000 total tanks last year, and are set to produce another 1,500 this year. By next year, they could be back up to Soviet production numbers which ran as high as 2500-3500 per annum (still nothing compared to WW2 where the USSR could pump out 50-100k tanks per year, though).
Also, on this topic. Many people have expressed the concern that if the AFU is accumulating such vast forces, why isn’t Russia working on the concentration points? Well, there’s a new report which claims Russia is doing exactly that:
On March 23-24, the command of the Armed Forces of Ukraine planned to launch a counteroffensive in the Zaporozhye direction. According to the enemy’s plan, the main blow was to come to the Orekhovsky site: a strike force of up to a reinforced battalion-tactical group was created in the city.
According to @ZSU_Hunter_2_0, the command of the 58th combined arms Army of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation decided to inflict massive fire damage on the enemy’s exposed positions and warehouses. The offensive was thwarted before it even started.
From 21.00 to midnight on March 22, hotels and schools used to house personnel of both the Armed Forces of Ukraine and the recently formed assault brigade of the National Guard of Ukraine “Chervona Kalina” were hit in the city — in total, over 20 targets were covered.
Several warehouses with ammunition, artillery shells, anti-tank missiles, parking equipment were put out of action.
It is estimated that the enemy’s losses reach half a thousand people killed and wounded. The Internet was turned off in the city to prevent information leaks. The wounded are taken out through Zaliznichnoye towards Gulyai-Pole.
Another report from a Ukrainian Air Force command spokesman confirms the mass attacks by Russian aerial precision guided munitions:
At night, the Russian Aerospace Forces carried out more than 10 airstrikes on targets in the Sumy region.
“The Sumy region was attacked by guided bombs launched from about 10 aircraft. More than 10 of these guided bombs attacked targets in the region. Losses are being specified there…” Yuriy Ignat, a spokesman for the Ukrainian Air Force command, said in a press release.
It is known that objects in the city of Belopolye (pictured) and the village of Viri of the Rechkovo community fell under airstrikes. Targets in the Nikolaev territorial community were also attacked, the distance from which to the Russian border is about 40 kilometers.
This is the largest attack by Russian aircraft on border facilities of the Ukrainian army in recent times. What is also noteworthy is that the Ukrainian military notes the use of precisely guided bombs, and not missiles, which may indicate a gradual buildup of this type of weaponry in the Russian Aerospace Forces
And on this topic, in the last reader’s mailbag I answered a question about why the Russian airforce has been seemingly not as active as some expected. I explained, how the Russian aerospace forces are actually averaging higher sortie rates than US in many of its conflicts, giving the exact numbers break downs from confirmed sources so no one can accuse me of exaggeration.
And here today we’ve had another such confirmation, when Shoigu stated the following interesting information in an update:
During the special operation, the Russian Aerospace Forces destroyed more than 20,000 enemy facilities, making over 140,000 sorties – Shoigu
If you divide that by 392 days of combat of the SMO thus far, you get almost 360 total sorties per day average. In my mailbag article I quoted above, I gave NATO’s own cited numbers that showed in the 1999 Serbian bombings, all NATO forces combined flew 250 sorties per day on average, and the US flew 150 strike sorties per day, as a comparison. The detractors of course will balk and say Russia’s making up their numbers, well then so is the US—and the US is far more likely to make up numbers as they’ve been proven to do it far more often throughout history.